Baby got back (pain)

by Kim on March 27, 2013

Having a baby can really mess up your back. Have you ever thought about that?

Obviously, there’s the pregnancy part, when a bigger chest yanks your shoulders inward and a giant belly pulls you forward all day. Then there’s the hunching over during breastfeeding (which seems almost inevitable when you’re trying to get the hang of it) and other posture problems that come from trying to deal with your rapidly changing body, coupled with the fact that your core is super weak after 9 months of little use.

And then, there’s actually having a baby around—carrying him, pushing him in a stroller, hauling his ginormous car seat around, and bending over to pick him up constantly.

Now, pile all that on top of 20+ years of poor posture, and you’ve got a real problem.

I actually didn’t have too much trouble with my back during pregnancy (which is when I was anticipating it, of course), but the second I gave birth? BOOM. I’m a hunchback. I might as well be 90.

I remember sitting in the hospital, propped up on a bazillion ultra-flat pillows, still crazy uncomfortable from the birth, trying to breastfeed for hours at a time because Mason never seemed satisfied—and with a neck and back that had never ached so badly in my life.

Mason Time 070

That shiz hurt.

And 5 months later, it was STILL hurting. I was also starting to wake up with headaches every morning. So I finally got my act together and went to the chiropractor. (You can read all about it here.)

That helped—a LOT—and so did the planks and other exercises I started doing to get my core back into shape. But I still have back pain today. (It probably doesn’t help that my spine is pretty curvy, as I learned at the chiro.)

So when I saw this article about proper “movement patterns” for moms, I was all over it. A year ago, I would have waved this stuff away (kinda like I did with prenatal yoga…BIG mistake).

At first glance, it all seems pretty obvious. But when I actually stopped to pay attention to my own movements, I was surprised at how many rules I was breaking. And once I got those rules into my head, they were more likely to pop up when I needed them.

Anyway, I wanted to share this, just in case any other moms out there might benefit from it, too. Here are some of the key things I learned…

Pushing a Stroller. The natural tendency is to hunch over, lock the elbows and extend the wrists while pushing. Instead, we should:

–Keep the head and chin up, shoulders depressed and retracted slightly, with chest leading.

–Hold the arms in a softly bent position, not locked.

–Keep the wrists in neutral and engaging the core.

stroller

Carrying the Baby. We get so used to carrying a baby around all day that we get lazy about it. The article talks about moms falling into a slumped position with the spine “collapsed,” or with one hip jutting out to the side and scapula stretched. No good! Better:

–Keep the spine in neutral alignment, with shoulders pulled back.

–Bring the baby to the body’s center whenever possible.

Nursing. New moms often hunch to bring breast to baby (hello!), which can wreak havoc on the spine. Other concerns when feeding are holding the breast for the baby (compromising the wrist) and crossing the legs (causing pelvic and spinal imbalance). Instead:

–Sit in neutral-spine position and use a footrest.

–Use a support pillow to raise the baby (I was obsessed with my Boppy pillow)

nursing

Carrying the Car Seat. Anyone who ever tried lifting our car seat was shocked by how insanely heavy it was. And moms carry those things everywhere! It’s nuts! The article, understandably, pushes for taking the baby out of the car seat whenever possible—but, of course, 99% of the time, baby’s sleeping angelically in there. Take him out?? Not happening.

So if we must carry those stupid things around, we should:

–Use the biceps to hold the seat, rather than letting it hang from the end of the arm. Best plan: hold it in the center of the body like a laundry basket.

–Avoid twisting movements when taking the seat out of the car. (Umm, good luck.)

Using a Front Pack Carrier. I’m pretty sure that my K’Tan was too big for my frame, because it never felt quite 100% comfortable. I still liked it, but luckily, we also had a Bjorn, which was WAY better.

To Do list:

–Make sure the carrier fits (oops).

–Remain cognizant of keeping the core engaged, spine in neutral and shoulders retracted.

–Keep baby close to the body.

carrier

Changing and Lifting the Baby. Since babies weigh so little at first, and SO MUCH later, I think it’s easy to fall into bad habits that hurt you later. If I’d forced myself to get into good leg-engaging lifting habits from the beginning, I’d probably be better off now. Also, changing a baby on the floor is tempting (and often necessary), but a tall changing table is really the way to go.

The article has much more detail on all this stuff, plus a bunch of helpful postpartum exercises (several of which involve baby)—check it out!

Anyone with back issues: what are your secrets?

Newish moms out there: how’s your back?

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